Friday, April 18, 2014

DON'T FORGET - Divine Mercy Novena Starts Today!

For those unfamiliar with it, the Divine Mercy is a beautiful devotion consisting of several elements to unite our prayers with Jesus’ offering on the Cross.  One of those elements is a Novena (nine days of prayer) beginning today, Good Friday.  Here's a quick summary:  

On February 22, 1931, St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, saw an apparition of our Lord.  He was clothed in a white garment, one hand raised in blessing, and the other slightly parting the garment at his chest.  Two large rays, one red and the other pale, emanated from his heart.  The Lord directed her to, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’  I desire that this image be venerated. . .throughout the world”[1]  When asked to explain the image, our Lord responded, “The two rays denote Blood and Water.  The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous.  The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. . .These two rays issued from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.”[2]

“Jesus, I trust in You.”  Trust, the absolute conviction that Jesus’ heart is filled with mercy for us, is a striking feature of the devotion.  Faustina reported the Lord saying, “The graces of my mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is – trust.  The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. . . I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts.”[3]To implore God’s mercy, Jesus imparted a prayer to Faustina.  It has become known as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy:
First of all, you will say one Our Father and Hail Mary and the I Believe in God.  Then on the Our Father beads you will say the following words: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”  On the Hail Mary beads you will say the following words:  “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”  In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: “Holy God, Holy Might One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”[4]

The chaplet recalls the great truths that we are a priestly people (1 Peter 2:9) and that Jesus’ sacrifice is the most precious offering we can bring before the Father, the reason for all the grace that flows to us.  With this central truth in mind, we listen to the promise made to Faustina: “My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you.  It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet.  When hardened sinners say it, I will fill their souls with peace, and the hour of their death will be a happy one.”[5]

Jesus further instructed Faustina to immerse herself in prayer for his mercy from 3 to 4 p.m. daily  – the hour of his death:

Invoke [My mercy’s] omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners . . . it was the hour of grace for the whole world . . . try your best to make the stations of the Cross in this hour . . . and if you are not able . . . immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a brief instant.[6]

Jesus also told Faustina that he wanted the Sunday following Easter to be a celebration of Divine Mercy.  He promised, “Whoever will go to confession and Holy Communion on that day will receive complete forgiveness of sin and punishment.”  In preparation, he requested that Faustina make a yearly novena, nine days of prayer to begin on Good Friday and finish on the Saturday before the feast“On each day you will bring to My Heart a different group of souls, and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy:”[7]

1.      All humanity, especially sinners

2.      Priests and religious

3.      Devout and faithful souls

4.      Non-Christians and atheists

5.      Christians not united to the Church

6.      The meek and humble, and children

7.      Those who glorify and love Jesus’ mercy

8.      Souls in purgatory

9.      Those who are lukewarm

Like the Solemn Intercessions of Good Friday, these intentions invite us to participate in Jesus’ intercession.

As a matter of private revelation the Church can never make the Divine Mercy Devotion incumbent upon her people.  I doubt anyone reading this however would dispute it as a singular way to enter into the intercession Jesus made through his Passion.  John Paul II was devoted to it.  In the year 2000 he invited the entire Church to turn anew to God’s mercy by establishing the Second Sunday of the Easter season as Divine Mercy Sunday and attaching a plenary indulgence to its celebration – but more on that later.

[1] Kowalska, Mary Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, (Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Marians of the Immaculate Conception, 1996), p.24.
[2] Ibid, p.139.
[3] Ibid, p.561.
[4] Ibid, p.207-208.
[5] Ibid, p.547.
[6] Ibid, p.558
[7] Ibid, p.435.  The intentions for each of the nine days are discussed in detail on pp.436-442.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Judas' Greatest Sin Was NOT His Betrayal of Christ

Love receiving emails from Daily Gospel.  I have to share the commentary it paired with the reading from Matthew, focusing on Judas' betrayal.  St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380 A.D.) recorded these words in her Dialogue, words she believed were spoken to her by God the Father:
Saint Catherine heard God say to her: This is the sin that is never forgiven, now or ever: the refusal, the scorning of my mercy. For this offends me more than all the other sins they have committed. So the despair of Judas displeased me more and was a greater insult to my Son than his betrayal had been. Therefore, such as these are reproved for this false judgment of considering their sin to be greater than my mercy... They are reproved also for their injustice in grieving more for their own plight than for having offended me. 
They are being unjust in this because they are not giving me what is mine, nor taking for themselves what belongs to them. It is their duty to offer love and bitter heartfelt contrition in my presence for the sins they have committed against me. But they have done the opposite. They have lavished such tender love on themselves and felt so sorry about the punishment they expect for their sins! So you see how unjust they are. They will be punished, therefore, on both accounts. They have scorned my mercy, so I turn them over to my justice.
Powerful words to keep in mind as we begin the Novena to Divine Mercy on Good Friday!

I remember hearing Archbishop Fulton Sheen contrast the actions of Judas and Peter.  Both betrayed the Lord.  Both wept for their sins.  But where Peter opened himself to God to receive mercy and forgiveness, Judas turned inward on himself and took his life in despair.  The great tragedy is that, had Judas turned to God as Peter did, we would know him as Saint Judas.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rosary Mysteries for Holy Thursday

My admiration of the Rosary as a form of prayer is no secret. I use it on a daily basis. For most of the year I pray the Mysteries usually associated with a given day of the week (Joyful Mysteries on Monday & Saturday, Sorrowful on Tuesday & Friday, Glorious on Wednesday & Sunday, and Luminous on Thursday), but at special times of the year such as Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter, I like to use the Rosary to unpack and meditate upon these events more in depth. 

On my drive into work this morning I was thinking about the events of Holy Thursday and how we could use five decades of the Rosary to join Mary in uniting our hearts to Jesus’s on this night. I recommend stopping to read Scripture at the beginning of each Mystery and then softly praying the Hail Mary as you visualize and go over what you have read in your mind:

The Washing of the Apostles Feet – John 13:1-20
The Institution of the Eucharist – Luke 22:14-22
Jesus’s “High Priestly” Prayer – John 17:1-26
His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane –  Mark 14:32-42
The arrival of Judas and Jesus’s arrest -  Luke 22:47-53

Monday, April 14, 2014

Help Matt Fradd Deal Porn a DEATH BLOW!

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Making Pilgrimage - A Touch of Irony

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the liturgical celebration of Jesus' final Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  As the Torah commanded, He traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover in the Spring, Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks fifty days later, and Tabernacles in the fall (Ex.23:14-17; 34:22-23).  Keeping the feasts allowed the Jewish people to not only relive Israel’s deliverance, the giving of the Law, and entrance into the Promised Land; but to look ahead to the time when the Messiah would usher in a period of unequaled freedom, faithfulness, and prosperity.  That reached a fever pitch when Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst the other pilgrims on Palm Sunday.  

Why make pilgrimage to Jerusalem?  Because of the Temple! It is impossible to overstate the Temple's importance in Judaism.  It was the only place on earth from which legitimate sacrifice, avodah, could be offered by Israel’s Levitical priests.  The synagogue and prayer in the home were never a substitute for the sacrificial worship of the Temple, but means for those living at a distance to unite themselves to it. Prayer in the synagogue took place facing the Temple, at the same time as the morning and evening sacrifice.  And although Jews recognized that the universe itself couldn’t contain God, His presence in their Temple was utterly unique.  It was “His House.”  Just look at the love and esteem Jesus showed for His "Father's House" throughout the gospels.

And all of these elements have of course been carried over into Christianity - pilgrimage, the centrality of sacrifice (Jesus' sacrifice, made present in the Eucharist), and even our church buildings as "God's House."

Now, in the title of this post I mentioned that there is an ironic aspect to making a pilgrimage.  I do not mean to discount the wonderful experience that pilgrimage can be - traveling to the places where the awesome events in salvation history took place and being able to pray there.  It simply strikes me that the most important pilgrimage we can make is the one we make down the road each Sunday morning to the local parish where Jesus, God Himself, is present in the tabernacle.  We visit God's House, where we enter into Jesus' Passover from earth to the Heaven in the Eucharistic celebration!  There are surely wonderful benefits to be gained in making a pilgrimage overseas, but it cannot objectively bring you into any more intimate contact with God than your mini-pilgrimage to Palm Sunday Mass in your local parish.  And that is something to celebrate!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Praying the "Our Father" at Mass

Our Faith is so immensely deep that we will never stop unpacking it. At Mass, just today, I was struck by the placement of the Our Father within the Liturgy of the Eucharist:

The Our Father could be prayed at any point, but it is only after the Consecration, when Jesus is sacramentally and substantially present with us, that we pray "Our Father." Jesus is present to us in the Liturgy in several different ways - in the other members of the congregation, in the priest through Holy Orders, in the Word  proclaimed to us - but it is only after He becomes substantially present to us in the Eucharist that, together with Him, we say "Our Father." 

It takes my mind to two beautiful passages of Scripture. The first is from John's Gospel, when the Risen Christ sent Mary Magdalen to the Apostles with the message, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17). And the second is from the pen of Paul, "Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father!" (Gal 4:6).

The majesty of pronoun "Our" in the Our Father derives from its inclusion of Christ Jesus!